A new Netherlands-based start-up is planning to enhance the sustainability of metal Additive Manufacturing processes by producing AM powders from metal chippings. TopologX was established by business partners Pedro Sterken and Hans Ingeveld in Eindhoven. In its first year, the company has participated in the Incubator Program of Brightlands Innovation Factory and produced its first batch of powder.
As Additive Manufacturing begins to compete with conventional metal-based manufacturing processes, an increasing number of companies require metal powder feedstock. By converting metal chippings into powder, TopologX stated that it could help make the metal AM industry more circular by taking advantage of material waste from machining processes to produce powders for AM processes.
TopologX stated that it brings the waste stream closer to the production stream. Sterken stated, “Just imagine: an industrial site where one production facility converts all the scrap metal into metal powder, rather than having several trucks arrive and leave every day. This saves on transport, storage space, transport volume and energy. It creates a first step towards a circular production process. It’s sustainable and cost-effective.”
TopologX is currently working on a powder production system which it refers to as ‘the Picasso’ due to its ability to ‘modify the image of objects.’ “topologX does something similar,” added Sterken. “we do the same with scrap metal. It starts by looking at things differently. […] The machining process creates the object and scrap. TopologX shows that you can retain value by cleaning the chippings and converting them into powder. We are now looking for companies that process titanium and where the TopologX system creates added value.”
“The industry for which TopologX is disruptive,” he continued, “is the trade in scrap metal and iron. In Deurne, close to where I live, you pass by mounds of metal several meters high when you travel to the village. This metal is rusting away here until the price per kilogram is good enough and it is sold and melted down. We are a huge threat to that trade; if we are active next to or within a metal processing company, intermediate trade becomes superfluous. Scrap metal is converted into metal powder on site.”
As a result, he explained, “The scrap dealer who now gives two dimes for a kilogram of titanium is basically our biggest competitor. This has always been our business case: turning those two dimes into something valuable, €300 per kilogram. High added value, high gross margins,” explains Pedro.
The start-up’s first 20 kg metal powder batch is said to be ready for delivery to Xilloc, an Additive Manufacturing specialist which uses EOS AM systems provided by Brightlands Chemelot Campus. TopologX is said to be engaged in helping Xilloc to handle materials more efficiently. In future, the start-up stated that it expects its metal powder production system to provide a valuable tool to major machining companies, from aerospace to automotive.
“We provide the system plus consultancy,” added Sterken. “The repeatability and reproducibility of the correct material quality is the basis of a controlled Additive Manufacturing process. TopologX views everything that deviates from this norm as waste and strives to achieve zero waste. A controlled AM process is achieved by handling materials smartly, but also by handling the other processes smartly.”